Senator Jeff Danielson

Senator Jeff Danielson

A bill that would set up run-off elections in Iowa when none of the candidates in a party’s primary election get 35 percent of the vote has cleared its first hurdle at the statehouse.

Under current Iowa law, a political party holds a special nominating convention if none of its candidates reaches that 35 percent threashold in a primary election. Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, says letting “party insiders” make the pick leads to questions about the “legitimacy” of the chosen candidate.

“I believe this bill is necessary because I would like Iowa’s election processes from beginning to end to have the greatest participation of the people,” Danielson says.

Brad-Zaun

Senator Brad Zaun.

Danielson admits the bill is getting more attention this year because of fellow Senator Brad Zaun. Zaun was the top vote-getter in last June’s Republican Primary in the third congressional district, but he didn’t reach 35 percent and convention delegates ultimately picked David Young, the fifth place finisher in the primary, as the GOP’s nominee.

“For me, this hasn’t been a new issue,” Danielson says. “I’ve supported something similar over the years, but it’s helpful for people to have had another wake-up call or another ‘Ah ha’ moment to focus attention.”

Danielson notes two of Iowa’s four congressmen were the products of special nominating conventions, as both Congressman David Young and Congressman Steve King became their party’s pick for the job after inconclusive primary election results.

Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, says when the bill comes up for debate in committee next week, he plans to offer another alternative.

“The person that got the most votes should win the election,” Bowman says.

That means he’d like to remove the required 35 percent threshold for victory in a primary election in Iowa.

“Why have taxpayers pay for another election?” Bowman asks. “And I certainly don’t like the convention process.”

If this bill as currently written becomes law, however, the top two finishers in a primary would face one another in a run-off election held four weeks after the primary. This would apply to primaries for statewide and federal office in Iowa as well as county elections.

The bill was reviewed early this morning by a three-member subcommittee and two of the three senators signed off on the concept, making the bill eligible for debate in the Senate State Government Committee.